Forever it seems to take reaching the train station of Beijing, going past small wooden huts close together in narrow dirty lanes as well as areas of hypermodern skyscrapers made from steel & shining glass. What a contrast - welcome to China! Together with Erik and Tracey we have Beijing roast duck this evening and drinks plus some very expensive zigarretes in our hotel afterwards. While walking we get first impressions of the hectic life in this 14 million people city. Masses of pedestrians, bicyclers and last but not least heaps of cars moving along the wide highways or through small lanes. Chaos without friction. The shining red of the chinese laterns, mixed with the neon ads & all those weird smells & noises. Definitely a different world! On the following day we head for Tjanmen & the Forbidden city. Approx. 0°C, windy, grey sky, it is snowing. We slide over Tjanmen into the Forbidden city, 5 € poorer & with a smile from Mao's picture over the entrance gate. Huge area full of wooden temples, gates & towers, houses, little gardens & shrines, dragons, butterflies radish. After a few spots we hide in some painters showrooms, chatting with one of the painting students for a while. On the following days some more sightseeing & Beijing discovery tours like the Palace of Heaven. We try to make plans how to continue our journey. Since Chinese New Year is close, prices are expected to rise sky high in Beijing and transportation will barely be available in these days, because the Chinese themselfes will travel a lot. In the end we have to take a flight down to Guilin, a bit north of Hongkong. Our lacking preparation takes revenge here. However, a trip to the Great Wall in the Badaling area with our dutch friends using public transportation is a little difficult but very interesting and much cheaper then the regular tour prices. But Jesus, it was so cold up there! Strong winds made the smile freezing instantly. The girls gave up. Erik and I didn't. Running instead of walking up the wall actually helped a bit. =)
Small hint, besides the usual western Fast Food chains there are a number of nice dumpling restaurant chains - a great alternative for tasty & cheap food. Plus, never forget to take your hotels business card with you, probably your taxi driver will not understand the name of your hotel or the street. Reason, the way Chinese is spoken differs a lot from the way it is written with our roman characters. To go by taxi is reasonably affordable, just make sure the Taximeter is switched on when you start!